New report recommends establishing a public health institute to address NJ’s inequities

NJ would join other states in improving coordination, collaboration, and resources

Establishing a nonprofit public health institute would be a key part of a reimagined public health system for New Jersey, as recommended by a report released Thursday by the Nicholson Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the National Network of Public Health Institutes in concert with the New Jersey Department of Health.

The report, “Seizing the Moment: How a Public Health Institute Would Advance Health Equity in New Jersey,” caps a 10-month planning process that engaged a wide range of key stakeholders from public health, health care, social services, and the faith community.

The report found “two striking situations underscore the need for a public health institute in New Jersey: the state’s racial and ethnic inequities in health outcomes and underinvestment in the state’s public health infrastructure. Both issues were exacerbated because of the impact of the pandemic and need to be incorporated into the public health institute’s development.”

“The nation has always needed a strong public health system, and COVID-19 highlights a current severe capacity limitation. Over the past ten months, we have had a unique opportunity to work with dedicated health professionals and community leaders in New Jersey who want to strengthen the system and address inequities in health outcomes,” said Vincent Lafronza, president and chief executive officer of the National Network of Public Health Institutes. “Public health institutes can add critical muscle to a public-private partnership approach, and we are honored to help establish a public health institute in New Jersey. As a former resident of New Jersey, I know firsthand how much is riding on the success of this effort. Let this be our legacy for healthier generations to come.”

Those in the field of public health work to protect and improve the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work and play. A public health institute would help prevent illness and work toward eliminating health inequities.

“A public health institute could formulate and address broad policy questions with wide-ranging implications for our state’s residents and our state’s public health,” said New Jersey state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “A public health institute would help accelerate collaboration across sectors, advance equity, and provide greater focus on addressing the social determinants of health.”

New Jersey’s would be the first public health institute in the nation to have advancing health equity as a founding priority.

“A public health institute in New Jersey would be another step in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s commitment to improving health and health equity in our home state,” said Maisha Simmons, RWJF director of New Jersey Grantmaking. “I look forward to the continued partnership, conversations and action to help all New Jerseyans live their healthiest and most equitable life possible.”

In conjunction with the report, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation issued a request for proposals from nonprofits in the state that have the interest and capacity to serve as an “incubator” for launching a public health institute. For more information and to apply please visit